European Commission highlights concerns about common ownership of airlines

03-2018

On 12 March the European Commissioner for Competition, Margarethe Vestager, highlighted in a speech that the European Commission is looking into whether a number of airlines have come under the common ownership of the same investment funds. 

More detailed public ownership data shows that to be the case in the United States, and the Commission is considering whether the same is true in the EU.  Commissioner Vestager highlighted a concern that, if in fact ownership is concentrated, the investment funds might benefit if the airlines were to compete less fiercely, and as such that the common ownership of companies in the same industry might harm competition.

The Commission's considerations are obviously in an early stage – Commissioner Vestager confirmed that they don’t even know yet if ownership is concentrated in Europe, let alone whether the ownership stakes are such as to give the investment funds any ability to control the behaviour of the airlines.  That said, interested parties may want to try to speak to the European Commission at this early stage, when it is often possible to shape its thinking more readily than when it has reached a more entrenched considered position.